Sportsman of the Year Messi creates history at the 2023 Laureus World Sports Awards

Argentine legend picks up Laureus World Sportsman of the Year and Team of the Year Awards at star-studded ceremony in Paris
Lionel Messi made sporting history at the prestigious 2023 Laureus World Sports Awards in Paris on Sunday evening. The football legend – who led Argentina to the World Cup in 2022 – became the first athlete to win the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year and also pick up the Laureus World Team of the Year Award in the same year.
The biggest show in sport was back as a live and in-person event for the first time since 2020 – and every one of the eight Award winners was there to celebrate an extraordinary sporting year. They were joined by the sporting legends of the Laureus World Sports Academy, Laureus Award winners from previous years and some of the world’s greatest athletes at a glittering ceremony at the Pavillon Vendome. 
The Laureus World Sports Awards kick off a sensational year of sport in France, and Paris in particular. In the Autumn, the Rugby World Cup will be the focus of the sporting world, with both semi-finals and the final taking place at the nearby Stade de France. Then, in 2024, the same stadium will host track and field competition as the Olympics and Paralympics come to Paris. 
After a year in which the greatest footballer of his generation finally added the FIFA World Cup to his resumé – winning the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player for good measure – Messi took to the stage twice: to receive the Laureus World Team of the Year Award on behalf of the Argentina men’s football team, and to claim his second Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award, after sharing that prize with Lewis Hamilton in 2020. 
If Messi can be considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, then the winner of the Sportswoman of the Year Award is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest female sprinters in history. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s memorable 2022 – including the 100m gold medal at the World Athletics Championships – saw her pick up the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award. 
Fraser-Pryce said: “This is the sixth time I’ve been nominated in this category, so to finally hold the Laureus Statuette in my hands is one of the greatest honours of my career. When athletes have the spotlight, it’s important the example we set is the best it can be. We have a responsibility to influence the next generation in a positive way and that’s what the Laureus Awards are all about.” 
Carlos Alcaraz’s victory at the 2022 US Open and rise to the world No.1 spot saw him collect the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award. Alcaraz enjoyed a phenomenal 2022 in which he won the US Open and became tennis’s youngest-ever men’s No.1 player – the Spaniard only turned 20 a few days before picking up his Laureus Statuette. 
Meanwhile, Christian Eriksen was the recipient of the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award after recovering from cardiac arrest to return to Premier League football with Brentford and then Manchester United. At the start of 2022, Christian Eriksen was without a club and his future in the game was uncertain. He ended the year playing every minute of Denmark’s World Cup campaign. His acceptance of the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award, in front of his wife Sabrina Kvist, was one of many moments of high emotion in the Awards show.
The Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award went to Eileen Gu. She was 18 during the Winter Olympics in Beijing, where she became the first athlete to win three medals in freestyle skiing at a single Games: gold in both the halfpipe and big air events, and silver in slopestyle at her home Olympics. Gu also won two crystal globes in the World Cup, including one for a perfect record across the four rounds of the halfpipe competition. 
Nominees for the Laureus World Sports Awards are decided by the world’s media, and the winners are voted on by the 71 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy – legendary figures from the past 50 years of athletic excellence, and the ultimate sporting jury.  
Laureus Sport for Good, which supports over 300 programmes all over the world using the power of sport to help young people overcome discrimination and inequality, shared the stage with these legendary athletes. The Laureus Sport for Good Award was presented to TeamUp, a global programme developed by War Child, UNICEF the Netherlands and Save the Children that uses physical activity to relieve stress in child refugees. In Paris to present TeamUp with the Award was Robert Lewandowski, the Barcelona and Poland striker who met with Laureus Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko in Warsaw last year to discuss the programme and the wider response to the war in Ukraine. 
Robert Lewandowski, who won the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award in 2022, said: “The Laureus World Sports Awards celebrate the best of sport, and for me, the work being done by TeamUp is exactly that. As athletes we are seen as heroes by many young people, all over the world, but the real heroes are those boys and girls who are fighting to overcome impossible hardship, in this case as the result of war. The Laureus mission – to use the power of sport to change the world – is one I am proud to stand behind. And it is a special privilege to present this Laureus Award to a programme that is doing that in my home city of Warsaw.”
The Laureus World Sportsperson with a Disability Award – the Nominees for which are decided by a specialist panel from the International Paralympic Committee – was presented to Catherine Debrunner, who started 2022 as an elite force in wheelchair track sprinting and ended it as the benchmark in the marathon. Debrunner set four world records at her home event in Nottwil, Switzerland, in May – at T53 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. By late September 
she had set her sights on a debut marathon in Berlin, followed by London, seven days later – and she won them both. 
The 2023 Laureus World Sports Awards celebrated the best athletes of 2022 and some of the greatest of all time, and was also a celebration of the mission Laureus has held since 2000, when its first patron Nelson Mandela spoke at the first iteration of this event and said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” This has become the driving force behind everything that Laureus does.

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